by Jade Standish
Disclaimer: I don't own any of 'em, and I'm not making any money off 'em either. More's the pity. I also did not write the lines that are taken from William Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing.' You'll probably be able to tell where those are. <g>
Author's Notes: This is for Sherri, the wonderful beta who is keeping Shades of Truth going even when I'm breaking her heart.
Ezra glanced up from his cards as Chris walked past him into the saloon. He thought he saw the gunslinger pause for an instant before passing him, but he wasn't sure. He shook his head, one corner of his mouth turning up in a smile. He was fairly certain he knew why the gunslinger was uncomfortable around him, but he wasn't certain enough to act on his feelings.
He turned his attention back to his cards, simply watching them fly through his fingers. He didn't look up as someone else walked up to him and leaned back against the post. "Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Tanner?" He finally looked up when he heard a slight chuckle.
"Nope. I'm here ta help you, Ez." Vin pulled out of his lean and dropped into the chair next to the gambler. "Ya do know what's got Chris all antsy, don't ya?"
Ezra stilled his cards before sliding them back inside his jacket. "I have a theory, Mr. Tanner. However, I would be most interested in hearing what you feel our illustrious leader's problem is."
The Texan leaned the chair back on two legs and grinned. "He's been dancin' around like a fly on a hot griddle 'cause he's got feelings for ya. He just ain't sure what ta do about 'em."
The gambler smiled, flashing his gold tooth as his suspicions were confirmed. "Well, it would be most unfair of me to allow Mr. Larabee to continue on in the manner. However, I do not feel that the direct approach would be the best way to go. Have you any ideas, Mr. Tanner?"
"Yep. Go slow and be honest." He flashed the gambler a wink before he lowered his hat over his eyes. "And ya might wanna offer him some of that scotch ya got squirreled away. He'd really like that."
Ezra sighed as he rose to his feet and made his way into the dim saloon. He nodded to Chris as he walked up to the bar. After a moment he headed back to the blond's table, a dusty bottle in one hand and a glass in the other. He gracefully slid into a seat next to the gunslinger and poured himself some of the scotch. He tossed the first drink back, smiling as it slid down his throat. He poured another, then offered the bottle to the blond.
"Would you care for a drink, Mr. Larabee? I am certain that it is better than whatever it is you are currently drinking."
The blond just looked at the gambler for a moment before he nodded and pushed his empty glass over. Once Ezra had filled it the gunslinger reached for it, his fingers brushing Ezra's for an instant. He glanced up and met the gambler's eyes, his lips curling up at what he saw there. He raised the glass to his lips, his eyes never leaving Ezra's as he took a sip of the scotch.
The moment was broken as Buck loudly made his way over to their table, dropping into a chair and leaning it back on two legs. He reached for the scotch, frowning when Ezra pulled the bottle away. "Come on, Ez. Share some of the good stuff."
"I do not think so, Mr. Wilmington. Liquor of this quality should not be wasted on a man with limited taste such as yourself."
The ladies' man laughed. "Well then, why are ya sharing it with Chris here? My taste ain't any more limited than his is."
The gambler sighed. "That is a matter of opinion, Mr. Wilmington." He turned to Chris, a hint of a smile on his lips. "As it is time for my shift in the jail guarding those miscreants, I shall bid you adieu." He tipped his hat at the gunslinger and rose from the table, taking his bottle of scotch back to the bar.
The next afternoon Ezra was once again sitting on the boardwalk, this time with a book in his hands instead of a deck of cards. He heard JD walk up and sit in the chair next to him but he never looked up from the book. He continued to read until the sheriff cleared his throat.
"Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Dunne?"
The younger man just smiled. "What are ya reading, Ez?"
Ezra lowered his book, turning to face the sheriff. "I am reading a literary classic by the bard. It is a comedic play entitled 'Much Ado About Nothing.'"
"Really?" JD glanced at the plain cover of the book then back up at the gambler. "I tried reading Shakespeare once, but it didn't make any sense. I couldn't figure out some of the words."
Out of the corner of his eye the gambler noticed Chris walking towards them and broke into a smile, flashing his gold tooth. "Well, Mr. Dunne, the bard was never meant to be read silently. His work was meant to be read aloud, preferably by more than one person." He turned to where the blond gunslinger was standing by the saloon doors. "Mr. Larabee, if you would care to join us for a moment?"
The gunslinger walked slowly closer, frowning when Ezra handed the open book to him. "What am I supposed to do with this, Ez?"
The gambler smiled as he met the blond's eyes. "I am attempting to educate Mr. Dunne on the finer points of Shakespeare, and for that I need your assistance." He glanced back at JD who was sitting staring at the two of them with wide eyes. "Mr. Larabee and myself will read a portion of a scene for you. Hopefully, it will make more sense to you then." He turned back to Chris, a small smile on his face. "If you wouldn't mind, Mr. Larabee, you can portray Benedick."
The blond glanced down at the book and as he read the first few lines a sly smile curled his lips. "I guess that means you're Beatrice, huh Ez? You trying to tell me something?"
Ezra just smiled back. "I suppose that would depend on whether you wanted me to or not, Mr. Larabee. Please, begin any time you wish."
Chris chuckled as he turned back to the book and began to recite the words, shaking his head when he realized just what scene the gambler had turned the book to. "And I pray thee now tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?"
The gambler's eyes were twinkling as he answered, pushing the book away when the blond tried to hand it back. "For them all together, which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them." He met Chris's eyes, his own finally showing his true feelings. "But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?"
The blond smiled as he caught Ezra's unspoken message. "Suffer love? I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will."
Ezra's eyes lit up and he shifted slightly closer to the gunslinger. "In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart, if you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours, for I will never love that which my friend hates."
Chris felt his lips curling into a gentle smile. "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably." He met Ezra's eyes, the comfortable silence only broken by an enthusiastic JD.
"Wow, you weren't kidding, Ezra. It does make more sense when you hear it." The sheriff was about to continue when he noticed Casey waving at him from the other side of the street. "Uh, thanks, Ez. I gotta go now."
The two men watched JD race off towards Casey, then turned back to each other. Chris smiled as he handed the book back, his fingers gently brushing Ezra's. "Ya got any more of those plays hidden away in your room, Ez?"
The gambler grinned as he walked into the saloon, the gunslinger only a step behind. "I do indeed, Mr. Larabee. Perhaps we should start with a true classic. What do you think of 'Romeo and Juliet'?"
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